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Unilever brews up acquisition of herbal tea firm

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Matt Atherton

By Matt Atherton+


Unilever bought Pukka Herbs for an undisclosed fee
Unilever bought Pukka Herbs for an undisclosed fee

Unilever has bought Bristol-based tea manufacturer Pukka Herbs for an undisclosed fee, in a bid to close a gap in its portfolio, the manufacturer revealed yesterday (September 7).

The organic herbal tea business was a clear fit for Unilever, because they shared a sustainable living philosophy around benefitting people, plants and the planet, claimed Unilever. Pukka Herbs was also the fastest growing organic tea company in the world, according to Euromonitor 2016, with turnover of more than £30M, and growth of over 30%.

Unilever refreshment category president Kevin Havelock said: “Pukka has strong values and a clear purpose that aligns fully with our own sustainable growth model. There’s a clear strategic, philosophical and cultural fit for us.

‘Gap in our portfolio’

“The acquisition strengthens our tea business, addressing a gap in our portfolio. Pukka is a premium player in the natural, organic, health and wellness segment, which is fast-growing, attractive and scalable. We look forward to bringing Pukka to even more consumers.”

The deal with Unilever would see Pukka gain new opportunities to reach more customers, the company’s founders Sebastian Pole and Tim Westwell said. The 16-year-old firm will continue to donate 1% of its total sales to environmental charities, it confirmed.

Pole, who is also Pukka master herbsmith, said: “Choosing Unilever came down to two fundamentals: scale and sustainability. It is a leader in social and environmental change and it wholeheartedly embraces Pukka’s beliefs.

“Pukka will remain 100% organic and a champion for fair trading through pioneering schemes like Fair for Life, and continue to donate 1% of its sales to global environmental charities. With Unilever, we have new levels of reach and opportunity.”

‘Huge progress’

Co-founder and ceo Westwell added: “From day one, our mission was to connect more people with the incredible power of plants and herbs. 16 years later, with 1.5bn Pukka teas enjoyed, we’ve made huge progress – and it’s just the beginning.”

The tea business is currently worth £1.47bn (€1.6bn), according to data from information specialist Nielsen.

Pukka makes 40 herbal tea products, including Mint Refresh, Ginsend Matcha Green and Night Time Tea. It almost makes a range of organic supplements, including Aloe Vera Juice, Castor Oil and Rosewater.

Meanwhile, Clipper Tea owner Wessanen has hired David Caré as its new international sales director.

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